Have You Outgrown Your Home Studio?

Have You Outgrown Your Home Studio?

Christine Mason Miller (www.christinemasonmiller.com), an artist based in Santa Monica, CA, had worked in a 144 square-foot home studio space for many years.  

While the small home studio served her well over the years it was challenging to work on larger pieces.  "I’m a mixed media artist so I tend to create quite a mess,” she says.  

This summer, Miller took the plunge and sublet a larger studio -- just to see what it was like to have more space.  

"It was an eye-opening experience,” says Miller.  Subletting a larger studio for a short time in the summer gave her taste of how it would feel -- and what it would mean to her creativity -- to operate in more spacious digs.    

Her time in the bigger studio rewarded her in ways she had not expected, says Miller:  "Aside from the absolute glee I felt at being able to leave things in a state of disarray at the end of the day, it also made a huge difference to have a wall to hang my work.”  She was able to comfortably rearrange pieces to better prepare for shows.   

It also freed her from all the distractions she had at home: "Things like laundry, dishes and the Internet tend to drain my time on any given week…but in the sublet studio I felt I was in a quiet, creative bubble where no one could reach me unless I allowed it,” says Miller.   

Is Home-Sweet-Home the Best Place for Your Studio?  

As Miller discovered over the years, having a home studio has its wonderful perks: It is a short commute, you can work in your pajamas if you’d like, and you can go from at-home mode to work mode at almost any time of the day or night.  

But as your art and business evolves you may find that your home can no longer accommodate what you need for your business to reach the next level.  

Like Miller, it could be that you need to get away from a claustrophobic home studio in order to be the best artisan you can be.  Or it could be that your work stuff has outgrown the space and spreading, octopus-like, into other areas of your home.  

If you are tripping over boxes of inventory in the kitchen and bedroom, or your studio is so filled with materials and paperwork that you can’t even work comfortably anymore it may be time to consider moving your studio outside the home.  

More Space or Better Use of Current Space?  

However, before you make the leap to spending money to lease a studio outside your home, take a good look at why you feel cramped in your current home studio.  

"I think there’s a fine line between an outgrown studio and an overgrown studio,” says Debra Baida, professional organizer with
Liberated Spaces (www.liberatedspaces.com) of San Francisco, Calif. "On some basic level the latter has to be ruled out before the former can be declared.”  

One way to find out is to answer this important question: Is what you are tripping over clutter or creativity or some combination of the two?  

"Before throwing your hands in the air and saying you need a bigger space, it’s important to determine if the existing space really can or cannot handle the function and necessary tools to carry out your creative functions,” Baida suggests.  

"I've walked into home studios where the floor was barely visible … Once we got finished clearing and appointing ‘homes’ for the tools of their creativity, suddenly the room serving as home studio was more than adequate,” says Baida.  

However, there are times when the reality is that the physical size of an artisan’s work, such as in Miller’s case, exceeds the current space and stifles creativity -- and even safety.  "Then you have some sure signs that its time to move on to a larger space,” says Baida.  

Bigger Space: Bigger Expenses  

Going from no rent to a monthly expense of a studio outside the home can be a financial shock. But with a little creativity you can ease the pain.  

For example, Miller was able to supplement her sublet studio rent with other artists and teachers who needed temporary and limited use of the space. One friend taught a six-week improvisational class, another taught singing lessons twice a week, and another artist friend shared the space with her for the month of August. "In addition to this, I rented the space for a show organized by someone else and hosted a weekend-long art workshop that covered almost all of my July rent,” says Miller.  

But in many cases, you can’t count on your studio bringing in revenue, so before you sign a lease make sure you can swing the added expense.  Remember that you probably won’t just be responsible for rent alone: ask if you will have to pay a portion of the electricity, gas, trash, water, etc.  Also, make sure you are not locked into a long-term lease should you want to move back into your home studio, or rent a bigger studio.  

Miller’s summer sublet is now over, but she will be working out a longer term arrangement so that she can use the studio for her larger work.   

The added expense is was worth it to her, she says, because during her time in the bigger studio she made more money than she has in a long time: "Between generating other types of activities in the space and the flow of people in and out…resulted in more sales of my work.  It was a win-win-win all the way around.”  

MARCIA PASSOS DUFFY (
www.backporchpublishing.com) is a freelance business writer based in New Hampshire and is a member of the state’s artisan and business organization, NH Made.  Marcia’s articles have appeared on Yahoo Finance, CNBC, Bankrate.com, NFIB.com, Smart Business Magazine, The New York Times Lifewire, The Weather Channel, among others; she is the author of the book, Be Your Own Boss. She is also the publisher and editor of Our Local Table magazine (www.localtablemonadnock.com) and The Heart of New England magazine (www.theheartofnewengland.com).  Marcia
wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie May.com (www.DebbieMay.com), an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.